► Premium brand, Genesis, arrives in the UK
► Promising luxury and peace of mind
► How does the new G80 saloon feel on the road?
Genesis: not Christianity's origin of mankind, nor a prog rock band or a weirdly spelt Terminator film but a new premium car brand from Korea's Hyundai Motor Group. Wait, come back, you German premium-obsessives!
The Genesis G80 is of interest because it's a distinctively designed saloon backed by an unusual customer service pledge (you will never set foot in a Genesis dealer, which some will find appealing, others terrifying). And, spoiler alert, it's pretty tidy to drive. Read on to satisfy your curiosity about this BMW 540i xDrive and Audi A6 45 quattro rival.
In the beginning, tell us what powers the G80...
We're in the flagship, all-wheel drive G80, running a high-output four-cylinder turbo engine. It's a direct injection 2.5-litre unit pumping out 300bhp, the kind of output German rivals would deploy six-cylinders or electric assistance to produce.
And that has consequences: the best-case fuel consumption figure is 31.2mpg, a couple of miles down on BMW's 540i xDrive that's only available with a Touring bodystyle for Brit buyers. Europe is clearly a land of confusion for Genesis, because it's launching with a petrol engine more suitable for Asia and America, and a 2.2-litre diesel when compression ignition has fallen massively out of favour. Good luck with that, guys.
That said, a pure electric G80 will arrive by the end of the year; it appears hybrids are not imminent, though executives won't call it either way.
Genesis launches in Europe: the first details
Fire up the engine, you can fill in the details later
The four-pot is way down in the mix like Tony Banks' synth-playing, with a muted snarl under acceleration. The smooth engine takes a little pause on kickdown before unleashing a deep flow of midrange punch: 311lb ft of torque is on tap between 1650 and 4000rpm in fact. The G80 almost has me muttering 'mama' as it surges past a golden 1-series cabrio on a steep hill; 0-62mph takes just six seconds.
The all-wheel drive system is rear-biased but continuously variable, though this Genesis is a car you can really drive on the nose, surging into corners and relying on the plentiful front-end grip to haul you through. In these dry conditions, there's no trick of the tail.
The steering feels responsive, jinking the saloon left-right to swerve round cyclists, and nicely weighted at out-of-town speeds. The brake pedal is alert, with meaty stopping power. Transmission is via an in-house eight-speed automatic, which whips through the gears smoothly. Simply pull the clicky plastic paddles to take charge of upshifts, there's no need to select a manual mode.
So far, pretty good. Any weaknesses?
The body is suspended by multilink suspension all-round, and adaptive damping informed by a camera that scans the road ahead. To me, it seems to have an invisible touch: the ride often feels overly firm and at times jarring on some craggy Oxfordshire roads, even in Comfort mode. It's not just at high speeds: high frequency undulations can be transmitted to the cabin in a gentle pogoing action at 30-40mph.
That said, the G80 rolls really quietly on its 275/35 ZR20 Pilot Sport 4s. And it's glazed with acoustic-muffling glass that does a good job of keeping out passing traffic noise. But you can hear some wind & wuthering around the base of the windscreen at motorway speeds.
That's the dynamics. What about the design?
To this eye, there's a bit of Bentley in the massive grille, winged logo and muscular surfacing. The drooping rear end makes the G80 look like a hatchback, but it's actually a saloon with a 424-litre boot. Shame: hatches are more practical to retrieve items that slide in too deep.
The distinctive concave rump and quad lights motif – two thin front, side repeater and rear strip lamps – put the cat among the design pigeons, which is just what Genesis needs if it's to command attention.
The interior is the most compelling aspect of the new Genesis cars. I'm no fan of trad materials, but the tasteful natural wood and quilted leather (on top spec Luxury Line G80s costing £47,950) are lovely. The textured, two-tone indicator tips, faux-ivory circular control pad (actually a little fiddly compared with the touchscreen), and arcing door panels are surprise-and-delight touches. The broad central and driver's digital screens have classy graphics too, and the materials and finish are top-notch.
And I take it there's a plethora of gadgets...?
In the rear, you can stretch out your legs splendidly, though headroom is tight, not aided by the upright seat backs. Go Luxury Line or spec the £3920 Executive pack to add independently operated rear screens, and a folding armrest filled with controls. You can operate pretty much every car function from back here, bar driving the thing – though you can Tamiya-model manoeuvre it from outside with Remote Smart Parking (part of the £3900 Innovation Pack).
Other techy features include the digital binnacles morphing into a camera's view along the side's blind spot (familiar from Hyundai and Kias), smooth-operating Highway Driving Assist (Level 2 'autonomous' capability) and a claimed-world first centre section airbag, which expands to prevent driver and passenger cracking heads together.
Tell me more about the Genesis customer experience
Genesis claims its customer service approach is unique: in actuality it's more a greatest hits package of other brands' initiatives. But, put together, it is damn comprehensive.
Like Tesla, there's no dealership network. That saves a lot of cost and complexity, especially when digital is making the future of dealers uncertain – just like the success of the Genesis brand in the UK. So, like Tesla, prospective customers can visit a studio where they can discuss the brand with a Genesis Personal Assistant (GPA), under no pressure to transact because the advisor is not remunerated for orders.
Your GPA is reportedly assigned for the duration of your enquiry/ownership, like a DS Automobiles' concierge. And Genesis has a mantra of 'we come to you' in a bid to save customers' time, collecting and delivering your car at service time – again, like DS Automobiles.
Genesis vows its GPAs will bring a car to prospects for a test drive, on multiple occasions if need be, which is feasible while Genesis remains ultra-niche and focused on the south-east of the UK. Cars are taken away to be serviced at a central point, the Genesis Operating Centre.
Five years' peace of mind – but at what cost?
The sales support package looks compelling: a five-year/unlimited mileage warranty, and five years of servicing (up to 31,000 miles), roadside assistance, like-for-like courtesy cars and map and other over-the-air updates.
Question is, what's it going to cost? Entry-level Premium Line costs £43,150 for the 2.5-litre turbo, while the rear-drive 2.2-litre diesel retails for £37,460. Add another £4800 for Luxury Line models.
The crucial determinant will be monthly lease rates. Genesis won't know these until the end of June 2021 when the configurator will also be ready; the first UK deliveries are this summer.
Genesis G80: verdict
The G80 is an accomplished proposition, with a distinct exterior design, knockout interior, lots of well-integrated technology and a strong customer-focused proposition.
Unfortunately, that's the opposite of the launch engine line-up, with consumers unlikely to be flocking to a petrol engine that's off the pace on economy and emissions, a diesel whose time has passed, and no electrification yet. Another drawback is the brittle ride quality, and we await the finalised lease rates.
Genesis will enrich the UK and European markets. But the GV80 SUV is the more compelling launch car. The G80 2.5T is a solid effort, but it feels like there's more to come. For now, that's all.